Which two Milan greats did Axel look up to?
Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe has named two all-time greats, formerly of AC Milan, as his primary inspirations growing up.
The 22-year-old, who has made 18 appearances for the Reds and can play right across the backline, perhaps unsurprisingly chose one of the all-time great defenders, Paolo Maldini, as a player he enjoyed watching play as a child.
Maldini lifted the European Cup on five occasions with the Rossoneri, and played for the club a whopping 902 times between his debut in 1985 and retirement - aged 40 - in 2009.
However, he also opted for a man who plied his trade further forward, with Ronaldinho – who joined the Italian club later in his career, after his Champions League winning spell with Barcelona – standing out for his all-round attacking qualities.
“Being young, I had loads of inspirations, loads of players I just enjoyed watching play,” said Axel.
“For example I’d probably say the person I enjoyed watching most was Ronaldinho, just because of how he was able to beat a man.
“He had, I’d say, the complete package – he was strong, he was quick, he had technique, he had skill, he could finish.
“But also on a defensive level, I loved Maldini. Same type of physical attributes as Ronaldinho, but he had the other side of the game – the pessimist, the looking out for your team-mates, the brutality, the tackling and the aggression.”
Tuanzebe, who is renowned for his pace and strength, which he showcased to great effect while on loan at promoted Aston Villa last season, admits that he tried to sprinkle some of Maldini and Ronaldinho’s qualities in his own game.
“I looked at both of their games and always wanted to add little stuff into mine,” he continued.
“Never try and recreate someone else’s game, but just adapt it into yours. Those two were definitely a big inspiration for me, I definitely tried to base my game around them.”